BWW Reviews: Ocean State Theatre Company Rolls the Dice on GUYS AND DOLLS
Ocean State Theatre's production of Guys and Dolls is sure to be a summertime hit for the Company. This staging has a solid foundation in the well-known tunes and colorful characters of Frank Loesser's Tony-Award-winning musical, and OSTC builds from there with a talented cast, sharp choreography, and smartly-designed scenery.
Two romances sit at the heart of Guys and Dolls. Nathan Detroit (played by Kevin B. McGlynn) has been engaged to his showgirl sweetheart, Miss Adelaide (Katie Clark), for 14 years . . . and counting. Detroit's single-minded devotion to running "the oldest-established permanent floating crap game in New York" - and his inherent fear of the state of marriage - continually interrupts Miss Adelaide's long-suffering dreams of domestic bliss.
When Detroit's game is hampered by an increased police presence, he gambles with high-roller Sky Masterson (Tom Andrew) for the funds he needs to secure a new location. The bet: Detroit wagers $1,000 that Masterson will never be able to persuade straight-arrow Sarah Brown (Rochelle Weinrauch), a local mission worker, to accompany him to dinner in Havana. With the struggling mission slated for closure, Lt. Brannigan's forces closing in on the gamblers, Sky and Sarah discovering that opposites really do attract, and Miss Adelaide's patience running thin, the stage is set for Guys and Dolls' romantic comedy to unfold.
McGlynn and Clark perform several sweet, funny scenes together as Detroit and Miss Adelaide, proving the duo's skillful comic timing. It is unfortunate that Detroit is so limited a singing role; McGlynn's powerful voice is only utilized to the fullest extent once in the production, during the second-act's "Sue Me." Clark has more musical numbers, though Adelaide's thick New York accent and cutesy manner of speaking often mask Clark's true vocal talent. In scenes where Miss Adelaide is more subdued - the reprise to "Adelaide's Lament," for instance - Clark's own tones slip through the characterization with marked clarity and sweetness.
Tom Andrew brings the right amount of cool confidence to "highest player of them all." Andrew plays Masterson - a gambler willing to bet nearly any amount on any wager, no matter how preposterous - with dash and daring, but not cockiness, making his transition from carefree high roller to romantic lead a part of his character's natural progression. As the determined Sergeant Sarah, Weinrauch works well opposite Andrew to navigate the pair's initial differences and gradually develop their budding relationship. Though Sarah's interaction with other characters is somewhat limited, one of Weinrauch's most memorable scenes comes during the number "Marry the Man Today," Sarah's spirited second-act duet with Miss Adelaide.
Matthew Eamon Ryan plays Nicely-Nicely Johnson with lots of personality and well-timed punchlines. Ryan also has one of the strongest singing voices in the cast; he and John Ramsey (as Benny Southstreet) shine in their rendition of the title song, and their trio performance (with Brandon Alberto as Rusty Charlie) of "Fugue for Tinhorns" starts the production off with lots of pizazz. Frank O'Donnell and Jonathan Luke Stevens are a great team as Big Jule and Harry the Horse, striking the right balance between their characters' quiet menace and dry humor.
Right from the start, director/choreographer Russell Garrett delivers a solid production that is visually engaging and has good momentum. The show's opening medley establishes the character of Nathan Detroit's New York though a complicated and continual parade of faces and fortunes. Conmen, police inspectors, rising stars and star-struck youngsters rub shoulders with well-to-do ladies and gentlemen as they pass each other in Times Square.
Bert Scott's sets are minimally rendered but perfectly suited to this production. New York's bustling streets and skyscrapers are suggested by lattices of metal piping and illuminated theatre marquees, the gamblers' den in a subterranean sewer gains atmosphere through theatrical smoke and creative lighting, and Havana, Cuba is broadly referenced (as befitting the scene) by an oversized picture postcard.
Ocean State's Guys and Dolls also includes several excellent dance numbers; the tango pieces that accompany Sky and Sarah's visit to Havana have great character and flair, and the outstanding ensemble routines during "The Crapshooters' Dance" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" earn deserved and enthusiastic applause.
OSTC's humor does go for the obvious punchline in a couple of places. Detroit's wiseguy persona and leadership qualities are fairly well sacrificed to his continually hapless bumbling, for example, and the Save-a-Soul workers - hunched over, shuffling about, and disheveled with hats askew - come across as pathetic do-gooders rather than disheartened missionaries. Still, Guys and Dolls' silly and sweet romance, familiar songs (including "Luck be a Lady" and "A Bushel and a Peck"), and engaging choreography are poised to close OSTC's summer season out on a high note.
Performances of Guys and Dolls run through July 27, 2014 at the Ocean State Theatre Company. Tickets range in price from $39-54 and can be purchased online at OceanStateTheatre.org, by phone (401) 921-6800, or at the OSTC box office, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick, RI. Rush tickets are available. Call (401) 921-1777 x112 for information on group discounts.
Pictured: Rochelle Weinrauch and Tom Andrew
Photo by Mark Turek